Text: Samuel Stennett (1728-1795)
Music: 1635 Scottish Psalter
Tune name: CAITHNESS
The son of a Baptist minister, Samuel Stennett followed his father into the ministry and was at the time of his death one of the most prominent of the dissenting ministers in London. He contributed 38 hymns to the notable 1787 hymnal, Selection of Hymns, edited by another notable Baptist preacher, John Rippon (1751-1836).
Our Hymnal includes four of the original nine stanzas in the hymn; the others are included below in italics:
To Christ, the Lord, let every tongue
its noblest tribute bring:
when he’s the subject of the song
who can refuse to sing?
Survey the beauty of his face,
and on his glories dwell;
think of the wonders of his grace
and all his triumphs tell.
1 Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
upon the Savior’s brow;
his head with radiant glories crowned,
his lips with grace o’erflow.
2 No mortal can with Him compare,
among the sons of men;
fairer is he than all the fair
who fill the heav’nly train.
He saw me plunged in deep distress,
and flew to my relief;
for me He bore the shameful cross,
and carried all my grief.
His hand a thousand blessings pours
upon my guilty head:
His presence gilds my darkest hours,
and guards my sleeping bed.
To Him I owe my life and breath,
and all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death,
and saves me from the grave.
3 To heav’n, the place of his abode,
he brings my weary feet;
shows me the glories of my God,
and makes my joy complete,
4 Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be Thine,
CAITHNESS is used for this hymn and for “O for a closer walk with God” (#416, first tune). The “C. M.” in the center of the page of the Hymnal on which this hymn appears is the abbreviation for “Common Meter,” which indicates a four-line poem in iambic, the first and third lines with four feet and the even numbered lines with only three. You can see all of the tunes in our Hymnal with this metrical pattern on page 815.
Since many of the Psalm paraphrases in 17th-century Psalters used this rhythmic pattern, many Psalms (and later many hymns) could be sung to this and other Common Meter tunes.
Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.